Friday 27 February 2009

Baklavas, Social Forums, Commercialised Protesting and 19th Century Politics

Just a few brief notes from the day - I hope to be able to delve more thoroughly on the subjects later on.

1) Last year, I participated in a survey administered to participants of the 2008 European Social Forum in Malmö, Sweden. A preliminary report of the basic statistics has now been compiled by coordinators (and friends of mine) Magnus Wennerhag and Richard Andersson. Richard is soon to join the department as a Ph D candidate, which is great. Without disclosing too much, I find the numbers on reported Internet usage from participants interesting. Expressions of political participation and engagement in Internet media seems to be much more common than any other form of participation. To be continued.

2) I'm currently working on a paper on the use of commercial social media platforms by alternative protest movements with my dear friend an colleague Tina Askanius over at the Dept of Media and Communication here at Lund. Specifically, we are looking at how protesters in Copenhagen fighting for a new "Ungdomshus" and organisers and participants of the 2008 ESF used social media. Hint: it doesn't matter how alternative or underground you are or position yourself as, you use commercial social media platforms anyway. The results will be presented at a conference called "Shaping Europe in a Globalized World" in Zürich in June. To be continued.

3) I had lunch with my supervisors today. Afterwards we were talking about the history of Swedish public administration (my head supervisor is currently working on a project dedicated to electoral fraud) and it turns out that very little has been written about Swedish 19th century public administration and political history, although lots of things happened in that time that are important for the understanding of contemporary Sweden: the coup d'etat and the new constitution of 1809, the historical change in Swedish trade policy towards free trade, the restructuring of employment strategies of civil servants, etc.

4) The department is welcoming a new Ph D candidate today, a student from Turkey who had already finished her dissertation, but who was told that she wouldn't be allowed to graduate because it was hurtful to the Turkish state (I believe the word "Kurdish" is in the title). So she will be finishing her Ph D here instead. A glorious day for free science. It's also my birthday, and I have bought 2 kgs of baklava for the occasion.

That's it for now.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Swedish royalty in social media: we are amused

This video of King Carl XVI Gustaf, Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria and "Herr Daniel Westling" announcing the engagement of Victoria and Daniel and their marriage in early summer 2010 has gone truly viral for the past few days.

Posted by the YouTube channel "Hovstaterna" (Royal Court), it has as of today above 140 000 views, which is a lot for a video in Swedish, where a mere 10 000 views should be considered a success.

And I cannot help to think whether it has gained its popularity from the royal glow itself, or from the fact that the royals look and sound incredibly uncomfortable and stiff in this situation, rendering the 5 minute clip, well, hilarious. For Christ's sake, couldn't they have gotten a teleprompter?

Twittering exploding in U.S. Congress (and everywhere else)

I spent an hour this morning watching U.S. president Obama's speech to the Congress. And as the cameras sweeped across the aisles and benches I noticed something strange: every now and then, you would see a Congressman staring, not at the president, but at the display of a mobile phone.

Who were they texting? The answer was as obvious today as it would have been incomprehensible a couple of years ago. They were twittering.

From the Washington Post:

"Then there was Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), in whose name this text message was sent at about the time the president spoke of the need to pull the country together: "Aggie basketball game is about to start on espn2 for those of you that aren't going to bother watching pelosi smirk for the next hour." A few minutes later, another message came through: "Disregard that last Tweet from a staffer."

It's bad enough that Americans are paralyzed by economic jitters. Now the president has to deal with lawmakers paralyzed by Twitter. At a time of national emergency, when America needs the focused attention of contemplative and reflective lawmakers, they are dispatching rapid-fire thoughts in 140 characters or less."

Twitter exploded in Sweden during the first two months of 2009. Pioneers in microblogging were social media fanatics, a few journalists and some bloggers. Jaiku was the most popular microblogging service in Sweden and Finland for a long time, although with a small number of users. And then, for some reason, lots of people switched to Twitter, at the same time as newcomers flooded in.

And now, 60 days later, it's mainstream. Politicians and corporations feel the need for being present at the platform - although, as usually, not everyone knows exactly what to do with it.

Hans Kullin predicted in early January that Twitter would be a crucial tool in the Swedish elections in 2010. We shall see. And I will take a close look tha next time I watch a Riksdag debate. Is that Leif Pagrotsky texting?

Oh, and I'm twittering as liv99ngu.

Jag fyller år och låter som en gammal man i tidningen

Jag fyller jämnt imorgon och intervjuas i lokaltidningen och jag slås av hur gubbig jag låter: tycker om kålpudding, döpte sonen efter Erlander (för att inte tala om hur gubbigt det är att intervjuad av lokaltidningen inför födelsedagen). Fast det är väl så det är att gå in i den yngre medelåldern.

Någon sorts botemedel mot åldersnojan är i alla fall att kassörskan på Coop frågade om leg när jag köpte folköl förra veckan. Jag kände mig plötsligt mer än tio år yngre.